Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

Going Live: Starting and Running a Virtual Reference Service

Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

Going Live: Starting and Running a Virtual Reference Service

Article excerpt

By Steve Coffman. Chicago: ALA, 2003. 182 p. $42 (ISBN 0-8389-0850-0). www.ala.org.

The road to "going live" with a virtual reference service can be long and uncertain. Funding bodies must be convinced of the value of the service, decisions about the type of service must be made, software must be selected and implemented, and other tasks have to be completed. This book will help one anticipate what's on the road ahead and avoid the dangerous curves.

This slim, easy-to-read volume begins with a history of reference services that explains how the Internet has changed services and the value of virtual services--all good information for convincing library boards of the necessity of virtual service.

The next chapters discuss the many decisions to be made and tasks to be done. The lists are comprehensive, easing the reader down the road to "going live." An entire chapter is devoted to marketing, a task that can truly make or break any service. While this chapter provides many good suggestions for creating a marketing plan, for a more complete guide, I would highly recommend "Marketing Program Guidelines" from the Statewide Virtual Reference Project in Washington . Going Live also includes a helpful checklist for software selection that provides a method for ranking software features, and a test used by LSSI (Library Systems and Services, LLC) for selecting virtual reference librarians. …

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